Review // Lush Spa Synaesthesia Massage
I've wanted a Lush massage for years but somehow it never quite happened. When I eventually booked one in Liverpool during the summer, it was cancelled when staff discovered on the day that they'd double-booked the therapist. It wasn't until the end of February that I finally managed to experience it. Thankfully it was worth the wait!
I'd gone back and forth in deciding which treatment to go for. Originally, I liked the sound of The Comforter, but then when I booked the Liverpool one, I figured the Hard Day's Night massage would be more appropriate. After reviewing the list of options, I settled on Synaesthesia, Lush's first- and signature- massage, and where better to experience it than their very first store in Poole?
As well as making the spiritual journey to the birthplace of Lush, I had another reason for wanting to visit the Poole store. I'd heard a rumour that it was possible to buy a perfume version of my favourite shower gel, 29 High Street, but the only place you could buy it was in 29 High Street. To my utter joy, it was true and I pounced on a bottle the second I saw it! I'd arrived a little early so I also bought the Easter range and had a browse around before my therapist, Jo, introduced herself.
I'd purposefully decided against reading any reviews of the treatment beforehand as I wanted to be completely surprised. This is going to be a pretty in-depth post so, if you don't want to know what happens, I recommend not reading on! It's also going to be very, very long!
Jo led me into the spa adjacent to the shop floor and it was like entering a portal into a completely different place. Away from the bright lights and crowds of the shop was what appeared to be an airy, relaxing country cottage. In the hallway, solid wooden furniture was placed against the walls with squishy chairs beside a coat rack, and a door at the end led into a sort of sitting room. We walked through this room and into the kitchen, with a wooden dining table and jars lining the walls.
While I sipped on some fruit-infused water, Jo asked what I was looking to get out of the massage. There was a huge blackboard on the wall inscribed with around 10 words and I was asked to choose one without thinking about it too much. I'd been looking for a relaxing experience so relax jumped out at me and I wrote it down on the smaller blackboard in front of me. Jo explained that each word had a slightly different treatment attached to it, with a specially designed fragrance developed in collaboration with a behaviour therapist. She told me exactly what I could expect from the massage and explained that there were two options in the middle- either a stomach massage or a hot stone treatment. Maybe I was being paranoid but she did seem to skip over the stomach massage bit and give a very detailed lowdown of the benefits of hot stone treatments. I was planning the stones anyway though so that didn't bother me too much. After telling me the ins and outs, she left the room for a bit and invited me to choose one of the 20 or so bottles lining the shelves beside me. Each bottle had a word inscribed on it, and a phrase on a label attached. Jo said that I could choose a bottle based on its word, phrase, or even the colour or shape of it, but that I was not to smell them. It was very difficult not to give every bottle a quick sniff while I was left alone but I managed to resist temptation. The first bottle to catch my eye was one that said achieve but, after reading the labels, I spotted one saying without fear and I loved that so much that I changed my mind.
When Jo returned, she took my bottle and disappeared again for a minute before inviting me to follow her into the treatment room. Inside, the room was similar in theme to the other rooms, but it was dimmed with dark curtains at the window (I had a peek behind them while I was undressing and saw they looked out onto the road at the front of the shop). Candles were dotted around and a purple glow filled the room. Jo picked up a science flask, dropped a little of the without fear liquid inside and 'whoosh!', out flew a load of dry ice. I ooh-ed and aah-ed like I was at a fireworks display! She brought it over to me so I could have a smell and, at first, I was disappointed that it was an aniseed scent. However, after a second, it mellowed out into a fragrance that was almost sweet, so it turned out to be a wonderful choice.
Jo left me to get undressed (except for my pants) and get comfy on the bed, placing a brass bell beside it so I could ring once I was ready. Here I have a little confession to make. I'd noticed that the shelf on the wall behind me contained all of the bottles from the kitchen, so I undressed as quickly as I could and hurriedly had a smell of as many liquids as I thought I could get away with. Laugh and sweet are both deliciously fruity, so I'm remembering them for future reference. Detached, on the other hand, has a bitter note to it and I was very glad that I hadn't chosen that one!
When I thought it was probably time to put the bottles down, I hopped on the bed. Unlike every other massage I've had, this one started with me lying on my back, blanket tucked under my chin. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the bed was heated, so it was like snuggling up on a warm evening.
The massage started off with a facial. I wish I'd been given the opportunity to take my make up off as I was very aware that it was being smudged all over my face (yes I go to massages with a full face of make up, deal with it!) Although this was relaxing, it was very distracting to think about the state my face would be in afterwards, especially as I was planning to go straight to the Pizza Express opposite for dinner.
Throughout the massage, the music that played was hugely relaxing. It alternated between calming songs and the sounds of the Dorset countryside, recorded exactly as it was at different times throughout the day. When the massage started, the country sounds were those of the afternoon, then throughout the treatment, they approached evening, into the night, the dawning morning and back to the afternoon as it ended. Hearing the distant ringing of evening church bells and the hooting of tawny owls during the night were my favourite parts, and I could really picture myself there in the scene. The only issue I had with this is that there were a lot of very quiet moments. No problem there- a bit of silence is relaxing, after all- only it wasn't silence that I experienced. Because the treatment room was sandwiched between the shop floor and another treatment room, with the road out the front, I could hear all sorts of noises in those quiet moments- staff calling out to each other, shoppers chatting, motorbikes revving in the street and even the soundtrack for the massage next door (they were having The Comforter- I can tell because the songs were clear as day!). For the most part, these noises were drowned out by the music but it was a little difficult to completely switch off when I'd get these glimpses of every day life continuing around me.
Having never experienced a hot stone treatment before, I was a little unsure of what to expect. The weight of the first stone on my stomach was surprising, but I soon found that it seemed to disappear, and I felt as though nothing was there. Even the little stone on the middle of my forehead, far from being distracting, felt perfectly natural. There was a point towards the end of this section where the weight of the stone, coupled with the fact that I hadn't eaten that day, made me feel vaguely nauseous but as soon as it was removed, I felt perfectly fine again.
After my legs had been massaged, I was asked to roll onto my front for the back massage. As I said, this is the complete opposite of other treatments I've had but I far preferred it this way. I usually find that I get all snuggly and cosy during the back massage, then it feels like a jolt when I have to roll onto my back- I feel cold and exposed, even though I'm under a towel. Synaesthesia has it the perfect way round since I end with the most relaxing part.
Jo had warned me that she uses firmer pressure on the back but I didn't find this at all. The lower part of my spine is very sensitive and often feeRls painful during a massage, but I was glad to find that I didn't experience any discomfort whatsoever. The light pressure was exactly what I like.
That wasn't the only difference to a regular massage. Rather than using massage oils, Lush spas involve massage bars. You can buy these in store of course, but the ones used in the spa are exclusive. I was a little disappointed with the fragrance. I'd anticipated something like lavender or ylang ylang in the Relax massage bar but instead it smelled a little like green tea. It's hard to know for sure as I can't find an ingredients list to confirm but it's definitely an earthy, herby sort of fragrance. i'm not a fan of tea so it's not one I would have chosen but it did work well with the Without fear scent in the air and it certainly wasn't repulsive.
Once the massage had finished, Jo left me to get changed (I may have sampled the fragrance of a few more bottles!) before meeting her in the living room. When I walked out, I found Rich there waiting for me. He'd arrived back at the store to meet me and the lovely staff allowed him to make himself comfortable in the spa area until I'd finished. While I was relaxing, Jo brought me out a cup of tea that was made from a special Relax blend- I think it uses the same ingredients as the massage bar. She also presented me with my own Relax massage bar in a tin and a bubble bar of the same fragrance so I can continue the spa experience at home.
Now, as I said, I'm not a fan of tea but as she'd brought it out already, I didn't have the heart to tell her. Instead, while she was out of the room, I gave it to Rich. Waste not, want not! I was shown where the bathroom was and told to feel free to use any of the products in there. Rich probably wondered where I got to because I was in there ages! It's a massive shower room with rustic wooden counters and tiled floors, with a huge mirror along the wall. Loads of products were left out beside the sink, including perfume and make up. I removed the smudged make up and reapplied it using some of the Lush products (they have a pot of disposable applicators), then had great fun trying out all the different creams and lotions. For the record, Salted Coconut Hand Scrub is incredible and I'm going to buy a pot to live beside my bathroom sink. After a liberal spraying of 29 High Street perfume, I headed back to Rich. I wrote a quick note in the guestbook, then let the member of staff (Jo had had to dash off) know that I was ready to leave.
It was only at this point, when she said that we'd have to leave out of the back door as the shop was closed, that I realised how late it was. Arriving at 2:30 for my 2:45 treatment, I didn't get out until 5:10! Not bad for an advertised 80 minute treatment! At no point did I feel rushed or hurried. Everything was taken so leisurely that I had no idea I'd been in there so long. I've never experienced this level of chill in a spa treatment before. Everything is taken at your own pace.
I had a wonderful experience at the Lush spa and I'll definitely be returning. I've heard good things about the Oxford Street spa but I think I'll go back to Poole. When I think about whether I'd prefer to leave the spa and walk along a quiet harbour front, or tackle tourists to reach the Bakerloo line, there's no contest! I'm looking at either The Comforter or Tales of Bath next so let me know if you've experienced either of these.
A Lush spa treatment definitely isn't like your average massage. If you're looking for something different, with exceptional customer service, I really recommend it.
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